It's a busy week for the Sporting Life racing team and David Ord kicks off the countdown to the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival.
Here we are. A week to the Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival and the first running of the £1million Sky Bet Ebor.
We begin our build up to the four-day extravaganza this week with a visit to Ireland to see some of the trainers hoping to snare a prestigious prize or three at the Knavesmire.
They include Aidan O’Brien who will be talking all things Longines Irish Champions Weekend and York. It will be interesting to get his thoughts on the Ebor itself.
Of all the trainers whose initial entries felt light for the cash-laden showpiece, the master of Ballydoyle stood out like a beacon. Only Cypress Creek was put in from his is battalion and when you consider you’re looking for four-year-old plus middle-distance horses rated 108 or higher to get into the race and a shot at the £600,000 first prize, that’s a little surprising.
He isn’t exactly short of those and even for the lads at Coolmore it isn’t prize money to be sniffed at.
Joseph has put his Irish Derby hero Latrobe into the race and Salouen is another bound for York who in other years would have been watching the meeting from his box.
There are stories aplenty in the offing too.
Take Wells Farhh Go for example. 40 years on from the most famous Ebor of recent times, he’s looking to take the prize back to Habton Grange.
Sea Pigeon’s triumph in 1979 has gone down in racing folklore despite the fact – owing to a TV strike at the time – footage of it is limited to photographs and accounts of those who can legitimately say – ‘I was there’.
Jonjo O’Neill was - in the saddle aboard the winner - and his decision to drop his hands in the closing stags earned a rebuke from the stewards. Had the short-head verdict gone the way of runner-up Donegal Prince (getting 40 pounds from the dual Champion Hurdler who was carrying a record ten stone to victory on the Knavesmire) then punters may also have wanted a word or two.
Now Wells Farhh Go is no Sea Pigeon – which is in no way disparaging – but he’s a rattling good stayer. Forget his run in the Qatar Goodwood Cup where he was lit up early and decided to engage in a private duel with the TV camera vehicle for the first mile-and-a-quarter.
Think back to his win in the Fred Archer Stakes on his reappearance or his 2018 victory in the Bahrain Trophy at the July Meeting and you have a colt to be feared.
The remarkable King’s Advice heads the market on the back of eight wins from nine starts for Mark Johnston. He’s a horse who epitomises his trainer; tough, genuine, busy and always winning.
The master of Kingsley House has other strings to his bow. Communique came up a length short when bidding for Group One glory in Hoppegarten on Sunday and currently tops the weights while dual Royal Ascot winner Baghdad looks a major player for the Middleham team.
The north also have a live hope in Kelly’s Dino who has jumped through hoops to get here. Karl Burke has identified the race as his six-year-old’s target all season. But there was a problem.
Even victory in the Bet365 Old Newton Cup at Haydock left him on the fringes of the field. He needed a penalty to get in. So, along with Goodwood runner-up Outbox, he rode into Newmarket on Friday night for the Unibet Handicap and a drink in the Last Chance Saloon.
He left with a short-head verdict over Corelli, another £16172 in the kitty, but more importantly four pounds extra on his back at York and a place in the final 22.
Disappointingly, the Road To The Ebor winners look unlikely to be represented in the big race. These three contests guarantee their victor a spot in the final field.
Sadly last year’s Sky Bet Melrose hero Ghostwatch and Sky Bet Jorvik Stakes winner First Eleven are sidelined and while the Grand Cup hero Gold Mount remains in the race, he is thought to be in quarantine and heading to Melbourne.
If you own a stayer rated in the high 90s or low 100s, those races should be on your radar.
Willie Mullins will throw as many darts at the Ebor as he can and True Self, Max Dyamite and Thomas Hobson rate a fascinating trio for the Closutton maestro.
But even in the absence of First Eleven John Gosden arguably holds the strongest hand of all with Royal Line, last year’s runner-up Weekender and Ben Vrackie all looking live contenders.
The champion trainer is of course bringing Enable to the meeting for the Darley Yorkshire Oaks and could ensure it’s no lap of honour for the middle-distance superstar by pitching stablemate and Investec Oaks heroine Anapurna in against her.
King Of Comedy is the Clarehaven representative in the Juddmonte International and the rising star faces an acid test in against Crystal Ocean, who made Enable pull out all the stops in a QIPCO King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes of the ages at Ascot.
Then there’s Cheval Grand, a Japan Cup winner who failed to fire with juice underfoot at Ascot. He could be a different proposition at York and Deirdre has offered a timely reminder that a star performer in the Far East is perfectly capable of shaking up the best we have to offer.
O’Brien has yet to confirm the final Ballydoyle line-up for the ten furlong showpiece but St James’s Palace Stakes winner and Qatar Susex Stakes runner-up Circus Maximus plus QIPCO 2000 Guineas hero Magna Grecia are both thought to be in the frame.
He often runs his leading William Hill St Leger candidate in the Sky Bet Great Voltigeur and it would be interesting to see Broome roll up here – and fascinating should Sir Dragonet get the green light.
Ten Sovereigns is out to prove he has the speed for five furlongs in the Coolmore Nunthorpe – a race in which Battaash has a question of his own to answer. What is it about York that doesn’t float his boat?
It can’t be the track surely? A flat, straight five furlongs. Yes, the Goodwood performances stand out on his dancecard but so does his 2017 Abbaye win at Chantilly. In that year's Nuthorpe it was thought the walk to the saddling boxes got to him at York. He was calmer last summer but got a little warm at the start before running flat behind Alpha Delphini and Mabs Cross.
But at Goodwood, when some were underwhelmed by what they saw, others praised the more laidback, relaxed Battaash who did what he needed to do. No fuss, no exuberance, just a professional job. Is that version going to roll into York this time?
This could be a real clash of the generations with connections of A’ali pondering whether to have a shot at the superstar colts in receipt of 22 and 24 pounds respectively, with their Prix Robert Papin heroine.
York stage the last of the major summer festivals and this year’s promises to be worth the wait.